Demonstrators ask McCrory to stop new NC abortion bill

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Abortion-rights advocates returned to the Executive Mansion on Monday to urge North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to veto a bill, should it reach his desk, that would extend the waiting period for the procedure from 24 to 72 hours.

Representatives of Planned Parenthood Action Fund in North Carolina, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and other groups held a news conference across the street from the governor's house, close to where they demonstrated two years ago about an abortion-related bill that McCrory ultimately signed.

The current measure approved by the House and now sitting in the Senate also requires doctors to give regulators more details about certain abortions they perform and to justify those after the 20th week of pregnancy. State law allows those late-term abortions only when continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the life and health of the mother.

As in 2013, Monday's demonstrators cited a 2012 gubernatorial debate in which McCrory was asked what further abortion restrictions he would sign if elected. McCrory responded only: "None." The backdrop for the news conference included a truck affixed with a banner reciting the question and answer.

"It is time for Gov. McCrory to keep his promise to not restrict abortion services more than they already are," said Gailya Paliga, president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women. She called the latest measure an "interfering, condescending and invasive bill."

The Executive Mansion gathering of about 50 demonstrators was the eighth and final stop on a statewide tour designed to raise awareness about the bill and build pressure upon McCrory.

Responding to a request for reaction to the bill, McCrory's press office late Monday referred to comments the governor made last week in Winston-Salem. McCrory said then that he would hold off on responding: "I'm going to let this go through the process and hear the debate."

Sponsors of the bill, approved by the House last month in a party-line vote, said the measure will give pregnant women more time to make a more informed decision about undergoing the procedure. The measure's Republican sponsors also hope it will result in fewer abortions.

Abortion-rights supporters at the rally say there's no evidence that tripling the waiting period is medically necessary for what is considered a very safe procedure for women.

Kelly O'Hanlon, manager of the Raleigh Planned Parenthood health center, said she's had to turn away a lot of women seeking abortions because of the 24-hour waiting period, which took effect in 2011, "and it breaks my heart every time I have to do so."

"A woman should take the time that she needs," O'Hanlon said, but "it should be on her timetable, not the government's."

Critics argue that McCrory broke his 2012 promise when he signed a 2013 abortion law that gave his administration authority to regulate abortion clinics using standards like those for outpatient surgery centers "while not unduly restricting access." The governor disagreed.

Abortion-rights groups appear to have dialed back on attacking McCrory for the 2013 law. They were generally satisfied with clinic rule changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services but are still not finalized.

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